Traditionalist or Progressive?
We here on the Pine Ridge Reservation have been surviving within a deep-rooted and far-reaching misconception. Tribal member/residents seem to think the power to govern belongs to the government. I’ve repeatedly witnessed the same thing. That mysterious 1% use it to keep us disorganized and divided. I believe this is what the rich people want. It certainly isn’t what we want and need.
Many an elder has said that we have an unusual amount of problems today due to the destruction of old way of life our ancestors developed and used for centuries, this includes expansionism, Manifest Destiny, domination, imperialism, and the tribe’s new cluster housing sites. Yes, the old camp sites along the creeks and rivers are abandoned mow and tiospaye histories are forgotten along with traditional government.
I have often asked myself, “Why are we living like this?” “Are we being punished for some bad thing we did?” After years of probing, I’ve learned that our condition is man-made. I’ve realized that we do not have to exist like this, we have a choice. We have an inherent right to pursue a significant level of contentment, much like what our ancestors had more than one hundred and fifty years ago.
Colonialism is debilitating for Lakota people. We have to assimilate into the dominant culture or resist by reclaiming our own culture. We are busy fighting each other about which way to go while non-Lakota interests relentlessly exploit the last remnants of our treaty-established lands. This is the nature of life on the reservation. We have to force ourselves to see that we don’t have to live like this.
I, for one, cannot overlook the fact that the colonists came to America to escape poverty, warfare, political turmoil, famine and disease. They came looking to seize a better life for themselves. In that process, indigenous people of North and South America were nearly exterminated. Assimilation is one of the characteristics of colonization.
Dictionaries describe colonialism as the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. The concept of documented blood quantum is a tactic to diminish and eventually erase the “Indian.” “Blood quantum” began in Europe and surfaced in the Virginia Colony in 1705.
Historically, blood quantum was not widely applied by the United States government until the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934. It regulates who would be classified as “Indian.” It once limited civil rights for natives of ½ of more of indigenous ancestry. The IRA now requires “Indians” to have a reduced blood quantum to be recognized as “Indian” and be eligible for financial and other benefits under treaties or sale of land.
In simpler terms, it is the domination of the Ikce Oyate (Human/Natural Man), an ancient sovereign people, by the new United States. Unfortunately, the political influence over a dependent people, was not done in an honorable way. Extending and maintaining a nation’s political and economic control over the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation was carried out under some activities that are not honest.
United States Congress treats Puerto Rico as the last colony in the world with its severely distressed economy and a limited political freedom. Indian reservations here in South Dakota meet the identifying criteria for a colonized nation with one exception – many are landowners.
Cultural assimilation used a violent means to control the “Indian.” This colonial violence enjoys a comfortable niche in the minds of Lakota people and in every home on the reservation. A strong belief among Lakota people is that the new Euro-Americans are better than the “Indian,” in every way. They punished Lakota resisters with physical violence and exclusion to maintain colonialism.
I vow to harp on and on about the language the colonists gave us. The most obvious words are Chief, Indian, Sioux, and Tribe. I know there are many more but these will serve as samples. This new language was created and established by the colonists. Also, vulnerable young language learners are now changing our language by omitting the gutturals and other unique sounds of “Lakota” according to the English alphabet.
Lastly, American government and its electoral system are comprised of Democrats and Republicans. On the Pine Ridge, we have Traditionalists (maintaining Lakota traditions) and Progressives (advancing colonialism).
(Ivan F. Star Comes Out, POB 147, Oglala, SD 57764; 605-867-2448; matonasula2@gmail.